View from the TOPP  – An Interview With VAT IT’s Dillon Ribeiro

“I wanted to set myself apart [by doing my articles in Commerce and Industry]”, says Dillon Ribeiro, a Stellenbosch University accounting graduate and TOP 10 ITC candidate. Dillon is currently doing his CA(SA) articles through VAT IT’s TOPP program. He shared some insights that might help other aspiring CAs(SA) to make the best choice for their careers when it comes to where they choose to do their articles.  

Inside the mind of Dillon Ribeiro  

After graduating from Stellenbosch University, Dillon decided to leave his small hometown to experience life in a big city. He is living in Johannesburg, where he is doing his first year of CA(SA) articles through our TOPP program. 

That wasn’t always the plan, though. Dillon was 100% set on going into a Cape Town-based audit program because that was all he knew. Auditing programs, also known as TIPP programmes (Training Inside Public Practice), enjoy the prestige of the Big 4 auditing and accounting firms in the country, the same names that sponsored the hockey games that Dillon played in school. He didn’t even know about TOPP (Training Outside Public Practice) programs – much less that they were a route he would be interested in – until much later in his life.  

Switching it up:  CA articles in commerce and industry 

If you’re not familiar with the differences between TIPP and TOPP programs, you can read more about them in this blog. Dillon explains it like this:  

Aspiring CAs(SA) who choose to qualify through TIPP programs are situated firmly in the auditing sphere. As one might expect from the field of auditing, TIPP programs are highly regulated and standardised.  

On the other hand, in Dillon’s experience, TOPP affords trainee CAs(SA) a lot more professional flexibility, a wider scope of responsibility, and the freedom to gravitate towards their personal career interests. This is due to the flexible structure of the program, which allows trainees to rotate into various divisions during the three years of their training. 

For Dillon, the invaluable hands-on experience he has experienced through our TOPP program has allowed him to effectively define “what I am good at [and] what I suck at”. In other words, the multifaceted exposure to business operations that TOPP affords trainee CAs(SA) allows you to refine your skills very early on in your careers.   

“TOPP is for people who know they want to be in business,” says Dillon. “[It’s] about decision making, board meetings, sales, finance, operations…”  TOPP exposes aspiring CAs(SA) to all spheres of business operations, not just auditing. Dillon feels that doing his articles in commerce and industry has diversified his skill set and turned him into an effective and adaptable asset to his team.   

TOPP of the charts: working at VAT IT 

Dillon Was originally offered a place in a sought–after auditing program. Yet, he opted instead for VAT IT’s TOPP program. The reasons for the switch came down to the kinds of skills that Dillon wants to cultivate, as well as a good culture fit with VAT IT.  

Many of the things that attracted Dillon to our TOPP program had to do with the company culture of VAT IT. For him, it was a combination of our strong leadership and the provision of a healthy, supportive learning environment that led him to decide to do his articles here. It also doesn’t hurt that VAT IT boasts a 100% pass rate for both the ITC and the APC. VAT IT can now also proudly say that they have a TOP 10 ITC candidate in their program, thanks to Dillon.  

Another pro for Dillon was the fact that VAT IT opens so many doors for international opportunities. When he saw that VAT IT serviced clients like Google and Amazon, he knew that he was making a wise career move that would bring him into a relevant tech industry.  

What it really came down to, though, was the fact that Dillon wanted to set himself apart. VAT IT is empowering him to distinguish himself as a highly-skilled and versatile CA(SA), and we’re offering the same opportunity to other ambitious CAs(SA) in training. In comparison to most TIPP programs, VAT IT’s annual TOPP intake is small. The group is composed of “people who want to be here”, says Dillon.  

This relatively intimate setting has created a community of focused and driven professionals. Although they work with a significant degree of autonomy, there is plenty of support available. The way Dillon describes it, CA trainees at VAT IT are working alongside – rather than underneath – their superiors. For instance, Dillon has already participated in integral business decisions. He has sat in on board meetings and hiring processes. For a trainee in his first year of articles, he has already gained invaluable hands-on experience in many different areas of the business.  

If Dillon’s insights tell us anything, it’s that your choice to pursue a CA(SA) career through TOPP comes down to your personality and your career goals. If you’d enjoy professional flexibility, responsibility, and a lateral approach to learning alongside your leaders, then VAT IT’s TOPP program is for you.  

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